Deb Haaland (D) is a Laguna Pueblo member representing New Mexico. Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images (left) and MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images (right)
A record-breaking number of Indigenous women—three—have been elected to the House of Representatives: two Democrats and one Republican.
The first two Native American women to ever sit in the House, Democrat Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo member representing New Mexico, and Democrat Sharice Davids, a Ho-Chunk Nation member representing Kansas, were reelected. They’re now joined by Cherokee Yvette Herrell, a Republican representing New Mexico.
New Mexico now has made history by electing an all women of colour roster of state delegates, two-thirds of whom are Indigenous.
Ruth Buffalo, the only Indigenous woman sitting in North Dakota’s House of Representatives, told VICE News the wins are huge “because it’s showing us our possibilities.”
While Native Americans tend to lean Democrat, the three victors highlight problems that arise when people make broad generalizations about ethnic voting blocs. Buffalo said at state and local levels, diversity in political views is also pronounced.
“As Indigenous people we just try to support each other, especially since we know how hard it is to run for office or attempt to get into spaces that weren't meant for us, or spaces that were put in place to diminish us,” Buffalo said.
Buffalo, who is Democrat, texted a Republican Indigenous colleague who won her state seat in South Dakota this week. She said her colleague responded, “Thank you so much. We all keep pushing at this from every angle and together we will get great results.”
In total, 18 Indigenous women—nine Republicans and nine Democrats—ran for Congress this year, according to Rutgers, and even though most weren’t elected, Buffalo doesn’t consider it a loss.
Buffalo said she ran in two elections before earning her spot as state representative. “Now, the women will know what to expect and will stay involved,” she said. “We’ve started laying the groundwork for more representation at all levels of government.”
According to Indian Country Today, Native American candidates won a record six House seats.
Democrats Tom Cole, Chickasaw, Cherokee representatives Markwayne Mullin, and Native Hawaiian Kaiali’i “Kai” Kahele also won seats.
The Senate has had four Indigenous senators to date, but they’ve all been men.
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